Frederick News Post
Hollywood willing to finance AIDS fight but not to show plight
September 16, 1991
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Hollywood’s brightest stars gathered Sunday to raise more than $1 million for AIDS patients. But such compassion doesn’t necessarily extend to the set.
Actors with the disease tend to conceal their illness from an industry still frightened by AIDS. Major studios have yet to make one movie about AIDS, and television has scarcely done better.
Thousands of actors â€” many well known, like the late Brad Davis â€” can’t disclose they are infected for fear of banishment.
“Brad just simply couldn’t take the chance,” said Susan Bluestein, the widow of the “Midnight Express” star “He couldn’t afford disclosure.”
Davis, 41, died last Sunday from AIDS complications. His wife said he contracted the disease using drugs years before and learned he was sick in 1985. He also hid his illness from everyone but his family and a few friends.
“I make my money in an industry that professes to care very much about the fight against AIDS â€” that gives umpteen benefits and chanty affairs with proceeds going to research and care,” Davis wrote in a book proposal.
“But in actual fact, if an actor is even rumored to have HIV (the AIDS virus), he gets no support on an individual basis,” he said.
The disparity between Hollywood’s p u b l ic charity a nd p r i v a te squeamishness is glaring Sunday’s Commitment to Life benefit scheduled appearances by Bette Midler, Carol Chanmng and Tyne Daly, among others. Scores of top film executives were to attend. Proceeds go to AIDS Project Los Angeles.
Hollywood c omp a n i e s, f r om Paramount Pictures to the Creative Artists Agency, donate money or facilities to AIDS organizations. MCA Inc. and 20th Century Fox are set to launch an industry-wide AIDS education program.
And why the lack of AIDS movies? “I find it strange that Hollywood hasn’t taken more of a leadership role, especially since Hollywood has so many gays in it,” said filmmaker Robert Hilferty, whose documentary “Stop the Church,” about AIDS and t he R o m an Ca thol ic C h u r c h, generated controversy.
An excuse commonly given is that AIDS movies are depressing and not commercially viable.
Yet “Longtime Companion,” to be shown on public television Sept. 29, made money for Samuel Goldwyn Co. The 1985 Emmy-winner “An Early Frost” drew a large TV audience. “Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt” won an Oscar for best documentary feature in 1990.
“I certainly would not subscribe to the fact that you couldn’t do a good film about AIDS â€” I would certainly think you could,” said MCA President Sidney Sheinberg.